NICKEL MINES, Pa. - A milk-truck driver carrying three guns and a childhood
grudge stormed a one-room Amish schoolhouse Monday, sent the boys and adults
outside, barricaded the doors with two-by-fours, and then opened fire on a dozen
girls, killing three of them before committing suicide.
At least seven other victims were critically wounded, authorities said.
Neighbors gather near a schoolhouse, seen in background,
Monday, October 2, 2006, where police say a gunman shot several people in
Nickel Mines, Pa. A 32-year-old milk truck driver took about a dozen girls
hostage in the one-room Amish schoolhouse Monday, barricaded the doors
with boards and killed at least three girls and apparently himself,
authorities said. [AP]
It was the nation's third deadly school shooting in less than a week, and it
sent shock waves through Lancaster County's bucolic Amish country, a picturesque
landscape of horse-drawn buggies, green pastures and neat-as-a-pin farms, where
violent crime is virtually nonexistent.
Most of the victims had been shot execution-style at point-blank range after
being lined up along the chalkboard, their feet bound with wire and plastic
ties, authorities said.
"This is a horrendous, horrific incident for the Amish community. They're
solid citizens in the community. They're good people. They don't deserve ... no
one deserves this," State Police Commissioner Jeffrey B. Miller said.
The gunman, Charles Carl Roberts IV, a 32-year-old truck driver from the
nearby town of Bart, was bent on killing young girls as a way of "acting out in
revenge for something that happened 20 years ago" when he was a boy, Miller
Miller refused to say what that long-ago hurt was.
Roberts was not Amish and appeared to have nothing against the Amish
community, Miller said. Instead, Miller said, he apparently picked the school
because it was close by, there were girls there, and it had little or no
The attack bore similarities to a deadly school shooting last week in Bailey,
Colo., and authorities there raised the possibility that the Pennsylvania attack
was a copycat crime.
Miller said Roberts was apparently preparing for a long siege, arming himself
with a 9mm semiautomatic pistol, a 12-gauge shotgun and a rifle, along with a
bag of about 600 rounds of ammunition, two cans of smokeless powder, two knives
and a stun gun on his belt. He also had rolls of tape, various tools and a
change of clothes.
Roberts had left several rambling notes to his wife and three children that
Miller said were "along the lines of suicide notes." The gunman also called his
wife during the siege by cell phone to tell her he was getting even for some
long-ago offense, according to Miller.
From the suicide notes and telephone calls, it was clear Roberts was "angry
at life, he was angry at God," Miller said. And it was clear from interviews
with his co-workers at the dairy that his mood had darkened in recent days and
he had stopped chatting and joking around with fellow employees and customers,
the officer said.
Miller said that Roberts had been scheduled to take a random drug test on
Monday. But the officer said it was not clear what role that may have played in
Miller said investigators were looking into the possibility the attack may
have been related to the death of one of Roberts' own children. According to an
obituary, Roberts and his wife, Marie, lost a daughter shortly after she was
born in 1997.
As rescue workers and investigators tromped over the surrounding farmland,
looking for evidence around this tiny village about 55 miles west of
Philadelphia, dozens of people in traditional plain Amish clothing watched ¡ª the
men in light-colored shirts, dark pants and broad-brimmed straw farmer's hats,
the women in bonnets and long dark dresses.
Reporters were kept away from the school after the shooting, and the Amish
were reluctant to speak with the media, as is their custom.
The victims were members of the Old Order Amish. Lancaster County is home to
some 20,000 Old Order Amish, who eschew automobiles, electricity, computers,
fancy clothes and most other modern conveniences, live among their own people,
and typically speak a German dialect known as Pennsylvania Dutch.
Bob Allen, a clerk at a bookstore in the Amish country tourist town of
Intercourse, said residents see the area as being safe and the Amish as peaceful
people. "It just goes to show there's no safe place. There's really no such
thing," he said.
The shooting took place at the one-room West Nickel Mines Amish School, a
neat white building set amid green fields, with a square white horse fence
around the schoolyard. The school had about 25 to 30 students, ages 6 to 13.
According to investigators, Roberts walked his children to the school bus
stop, then backed his truck up to the Amish school, unloaded his weapons and
several pieces of lumber, and walked in around 10 a.m. He released about 15
boys, a pregnant woman and three women with babies, Miller said.
He barricaded the doors with two-by-fours and two-by-sixes nailed into place,
piled-up desks and flexible plastic ties; made the remaining girls line up along
a blackboard; and tied their feet together with wire ties and plastic ties,
The teacher and another adult at the school fled to a farmhouse nearby, and
someone there called 911 to report a gunman holding students hostage.
Roberts apparently called his wife around 11 a.m., saying he was taking
revenge for an old grudge, Miller said. Moments later, Roberts told a dispatcher
he would open fire on the children if police didn't back away from the building.
Within seconds, troopers heard gunfire. They smashed the windows to get inside,
and found his body.
Miller said he had no immediate evidence that the victims were sexually
Killed were two students, and a female teacher's aide who was 15 or 16 years
old, authorities said.
No one answered the door at Roberts' small, one-story home on Tuesday
afternoon. Children's toys were strewn on the porch and in the yard.
A family spokesman, Dwight LeFever, read a short statement from Roberts' wife
that said, in part, "Our hearts are broken, our lives are shattered, and we
grieve for the innocence and lives that were lost today. Above all, please pray
for the families who lost children and please pray too for our family and
The shootings were disturbingly similar to an attack last week at Platte
Canyon High School in Bailey, Colo., where a man singled out several girls as
hostages in a school classroom and then killed one of them and himself.
Authorities said the man in Colorado sexually molested the girls.
"If this is some kind of a copycat, it's horrible and of concern to
everybody, all law enforcement," said Monte Gore, undersheriff of Park County,
Miller, though, said he believed the Pennsylvania attack was not a copycat
crime: "I really believe this was about this individual and what was going on
inside his head."
On Friday, a school principal was shot to death in Cazenovia, Wis. A
15-year-old student, described as upset over a reprimand, was charged with
The Pennsylvania attack was the deadliest school shooting since a teenager
went on a rampage last year on an Indian reservation in Red Lake, Minn., killing
10 people in all, including five students, a teacher, a security guard and
Nationwide, the 1999 Columbine High School massacre in Littleton, Colo.,
remains the deadliest school shooting, with 15 dead, including the two teenage
In Pennsylvania's insular Amish country, the outer world has intruded on
occasion. In 1999, two Amish men were sent to jail for buying cocaine from a
motorcycle gang and selling it to young people in their community.
There were four murders in Lancaster County in 2005, including the killings
of a non-Amish couple were shot to death in their Lititz home in November by
their daughter's 18-year-old boyfriend.
Kenneth Trump, president of the National School Safety and Security Services
consulting firm in Cleveland, said the Colorado and Pennsylvania crimes
underscore the lesson that no school is automatically safe from an attack.
"These incidents can happen to a one-classroom schoolhouse to a large urban
school," he said. "The only thing that scares me more than an armed intruder in
a school is school and safety officials who believe it can't happen here."